It has taken me 10 minutes to start typing this post because my hands are busy feeding my mouth a big hunk of bread that just came out of the oven. I would like to tell you that it's some earthy, nutty, whole wheaty bread, but it's not. It's white sandwich bread, made with overly processed flour. There's butter melting on top of it. And I'm in heaven.
First, congratulations to my friends Carolyn and Scott and their daughter Joey, who welcomed baby Julian into the world today. I always get weepy when that much-anticipated e-mail comes (or Facebook update, I should say. E-mail seems so old fashioned now, doesn't it?). Good work, Mama. Now cuddle up with your little bundle and get some rest.
I have a partial update from Saturday's trash-to-treasure presentation. As a reminder, the newspaper gave me $25 to buy some junk at the big indoor yard sale they host, and then I had 24 hours to come up with a plan to repurpose it. Then, in front of a (very small) audience, I transformed it.
One of the items I bought--for $5--was a quilt top. I don't think I'm going to win any points for creativity here, but I basically just used it like I'd use any fabric and turned it into an Emmeline apron:
This was the last project I did at the show because I knew it would take a while, so I sent the audience off to do more shopping while I sewed it up. They came back at the end (well, some of them did) to see the result.
Thanks again for everyone's encouragement before the show. It went fine. Later this week, I'll show you what I did with wooden alphabet blocks, an old picture frame, and a soda-bottle crate.
Now, shifting gears ... to poverty.
There have been a couple of pivotal moments in our 4-year-old daughter Bo's life. One was when she saw the Broadway production of "Annie" last winter. It's probably not P.C., but she still likes to don the Annie dressI made her and scrub the floors "like an orphan." Hmm ...
A second pivotal moment was when her beloved preschool teacher Miss Kathleen quit her job at the school to go back to social work, helping homeless women and children find permanent housing. Ever since then, Bo has been on the lookout for homeless people. She also sometimes asks me if Miss Kathleen has found a home for Annie yet. (After which I fruitlessly try to explain the difference between fiction and reality and then give up and assure her that Annie is with Daddy Warbucks now.)
Anyhow, on a more serious note, Bo's concerns about poverty--especially children without enough food to eat or without a place to live--has been growing. I asked her last week if she'd like to do something to help, and she said yes.
Together, we came up with a plan: she's going to make crafts that she'll sell at a local farmers' market and then donate the money to a crisis nursery here in town. So between now and Oct. 10, the date of her sale, we'll be stocking up on crafty-kid inventory.
Presenting Bo's very first papier mache pig puppet:
(Turns out an empty thread spool makes a great snout.)
The little pig is drying now, and tomorrow he'll get a coat of paint and something to wear.
I'm sure we've all read articles about kids doing good things for charity, like donating their birthday gifts to a cause. I love seeing that, but I have to admit I've always been skeptical about how much the parents are pushing it rather than it coming from the kid. Not that it'd be a bad thing that they're pushing them to do. On the contrary. It's just the pushing I don't like--or the assumption of pushing, since it's just the cynic in me that questions the kids' motivation.
But I can tell you this crafting project of Bo's is coming straight from her heart. It's the first thing she talks about in the morning and the last thing she says at night ("are we going to help the people tomorrow?"). I'll never question those feel-good articles again.
It's enough to warm a mama's heart.
Bread warms up other parts of me. One more slice before bedtime ...
I'm on my way to a big indoor yard sale, where I'll be demonstrating how to turn castaway items into something better. The good folks at the local newspapergave me $25 to spend at the sale yesterday. With Magpie at my side (and oftentimes very far away from my side--going junking with a toddler is challenging, to say the least), I spent the money on these items:
There were a lot of quilt tops to choose from, but this one for $5 caught my eye:
The cookie cookbook, well, it's full of cookie recipes. What can I say? For $3, I had to have it. The plan is to use it to decoupage, though, so I'd better pull out my favorite recipes now.
And am I the only one with a crush on these vintage metal trays? Mint and red. 'Nuff said.
Wish me luck! I'm going to be on a stage, which makes me a bit nervous. You would laugh at me if you saw how little the stage is, though. It's really no big deal. It's just that I'm used to crafting in my basement while wearing pajamas, not while wearing platform shoes with people who've actually taken sewing lessons in the audience. Eek!
I'm pretty sure I'm not allowed to complain about working on a Sunday if my job involves touring three gorgeously "green" houses and attending a funky-junky antique and craft fair.
There were temptations around every corner at the Two Women Barn Bazaar, but I managed to walk away with just a small stack of vintage sight-word cards, similar to the phonics cards I bought at last year's Farm Chick's sale. Some of the words on the new (old) cards: bow-wow, mama, my, blue, bird, and Nancy, which is my mom's name. I'll be sure to show you what I do with them once inspiration strikes. Any ideas?
Here's a peek at some of show's other goods:
The cards I bought are similar to these:
The tour of eco-homes was a real treat. I didn't have time to get to all nine on the route, but the ones I saw were stunning, especially a prairie-style straw-bale house in a neighborhood of turn-of-the-century homes near one of Spokane's most beautiful parks and a solar-powered house downtown that sits above the Spokane River.
I'd written about the river house a couple years ago when it first got underway, so it was fun to see the results.
If you're at all interested in sustainability (and shouldn't we all be?), hop over to my work blog (Dwell Well) to read the list of features that make that house so green. Even the steps that lead from the house to the river were made from old sidewalks and curbs, and the insulation is made from denim.
There are more photos on Dwell Well, but here's a small taste:
The straw-bale house was lovely, too. I'll write that up for Dwell Well in a couple of days, but this will give you a quick idea of just how grueling my workday was:
Gee whiz. Somebody pass me a drink! (So I can park myself at that table and sip away.)
We are back in a lovely rhythm here, and it's doing us all some good.
Morning: breakfast, coloring or simple crafts, dressed and out the door
9-1: preschool/day care for both girls. They come home with full bellies and I have 3.5 hours dedicated to work. That means, when the girls are back, I'm not constantly checking e-mails or trying to make quick phone calls (that never goes well). I can just focus on them.
On the drive home from school, there's a small treat waiting for them on their car seats.
1-1:45 or so: music! Oh, how I wished I played the guitar. Or the piano. Or anything. I gave up cello in the 10th grade. Was never very good at it anyway. Still, I've always tried to make music a big part of our lives.
When Bo was a baby, I sang to her constantly. At one point, J made the comment, "She's going to be really disappointed when she finds out life isn't a musical." I'm not a great singer, but I don't care.
I'd love to put the girls in Music Together classes, but they're so dang expensive.
So what we're doing lately is this: throw some blankets on the living room floor (we don't have a rug), pull out our basket o' instruments (tambourine, kazoo, harmonica, blocks, maracas), and dink around with them while something plays on the stereo in the background. The girls are loving Peter Yarrow's songbooks right now. I'm partial to Elizabeth Mitchell's "You Are My Little Bird" album.
Tutus are a must, of course:
And when the action slows down or moves to the couch, I know it's time for naps.
Does anyone else do something similar? Any other tips on how to make music with kids, especially for those of us who don't have the skillz?
After naps, I try to have some sort of craft or learning activity out and ready, in the hopes that this will be a precursor to homework time one day. And in the hopes that I'll be able to make dinner while they're preoccupied, but at some point (usually when they see me pull out the food processor) they always slide their little chairs up to the counter to "help."
Eat dinner. Go to the gym. Play outside (September has been absolutely gorgeous here). Sleep.
On a completely different topic, has anyone seen the October cover of Martha Stewart Living? It's not my favorite October issue ever, but the pumpkin "mushrooms" are awesome.
Speaking of my magazine addiction, Cookie came in the mail today so I'm going to excuse myself now to read about "39 family vacations I'll never forget" (but probably can't afford) and find out if "acupuncture can save my sex life." (Kidding, J. Just reading the teasers on the cover.)
Please pardon the downright ugliness of my blog right now. I have a major redesign in the works, and was tinkering with some minor changes tonight to hold me over until then. The result is a patchwork of grody colors and odd-sized photos and me saying four-letter words about Typepad.
Thanks for your patience.
In the meantime, enjoy the look (and content) of these lovely blogs:
Yes, he's still swimming inside his mommy's tummy. And, yes, it'll be a few years before he signs his name on a library card.
But Baby Julian, the little man my friend Carolyn plans to deliver sometime next weekend (she's hoping he'll cooperate with her schedule) will need a book bag one day.
That was part of my baby shower gift for Carolyn this afternoon.
The image I embroidered is courtesy of the generous and talented Sarah Jane, who shared some adorable back-to-school designs with readers of Sew Mama Sew. I had to sort of freehand it, though, and go over it twice because my method of transferring the image onto my nubby knit fabric failed miserably. A little wonky, but I don't think little Julian will care.
(FYI: Sarah Jane is the genius behind the kid art in my entryway.)
The bag itself is just a simple rectangle, lined with muslin.
We just wrapped up a week with guests from Sweden in our house. I wanted to put the word "wonderful" in there before "week," but in classic Megan style I ended up catching some sort of cold/stomach bug by Day 3 and was out of commission for most of the visit.
Ugh. It all had started so strong. We set off on a 2-hour drive to pick them up at a lake cabin in a remote part of northeast Washington Monday night.
"It's time to go get our Swedes," I announced to the girls cheerfully.
"Are we going to put them in the ground and watch them grow?" Bo asked.
"Swedes, honey. Not seeds."
When Bruno and Iris greeted us with warm hugs, I knew in an instant it would be a good week.
On Tuesday morning, I made quiche and pumpkin muffins and set out an array of teas and coffee for breakfast. That night, J and I cooked up a feast for 10 that included this butternut squash pasta, this bleu cheese dip and this apple cake for dessert, as well as some rosemary chicken, fennel sausage and other yum. We have failed miserably at dinner parties before, but we seriously hit it out of the park with that one.
The food was meant to be Northwest and autumnish, but the company was truly international: 2 Swedes, 1 Dutch woman, 1 Canadian and 5 gringos. It was a mix of neighbors and friends, and they hit it off beautifully.
But by Wednesday afternoon, my head was in the toilet. And, no, it wasn't food poisoning (thank goodness).
Our kind guests were completely understanding and they thankfully felt comfortable enough to help themselves to what they needed. But I couldn't help but think that they must have worried that they'd walked into Swine Flu Central. (Despite the fact that eastern Washington is ground zero for swine flu right now, I don't have it. Again, thank goodness.)
But during the times I was coherent this week, I witnessed moments of intercultural, intergenerational beauty.
We'd never met Bruno and Iris before. They were part of a "Friendship Exchange" through one of the local Rotary Clubs, which J volunteers for. They probably assumed they'd be staying with a retired couple like themselves, perhaps not with two 35 year olds and their young, er, energetic daughters.
But it didn't take long to see that Bruno and Iris love children--they have six grandchildren of their own--and my heart swelled when Iris put Bo on the kitchen counter on night 2 and sang a Swedish nursery rhyme to her. (Something about a mouse looking for a house. The mouse creeps up the child's leg and finally finds its house in her tummy. Giggles galore.)
We talked with them about history and war and the environment and immigration and health care and taxes and about the unbelievable polarization that's happening in this country right now. (Seriously. A day doesn't go by when my jaw doesn't drop open as I read the paper. And I'm a journalist, for Pete's sake! Nothing should surprise me by now, right?)
So, yeah, it was a bummer that I got sick. But besides going to a foreign country and staying with a family there, I don't think there's a better way to expose ourselves to another culture than inviting people into our home. It's important to me that the girls grow up knowing that their way of life isn't the only way of life.
We jokingly referred to Bruno and Iris as "our" Swedes all week. But, at the risk of sounding ridiculous, in some ways that's true. We now have a small connection to a country we've never visited, except vicariously while wandering the aisles of Ikea.
I've been thinking of making a table runner I would applique over the years with small symbols of our voyages and of folks who visit us (like a Swedish flag and a reindeer for Bruno and Iris). I mentioned this to my friend Klay and she suggested starting a signature tablecloth, like this one. I plan to get some hybrid of those ideas going soon.
We're back to normal life now, and here's a little activity I did with Bo this afternoon to
help her recognize words and,
more importantly, to remind her where to put her clothes away.
I cut out letters as she ran back and forth to her room to come up with things we needed to label, like her sock drawer, her pajama drawer, her zebra and her duck. Of course.
Then she glued them to the background paper.
As you can see I probably should have coached her a bit more on the order of the letters, but she'll figure it out one day.
And finally, a visual report from our garden. This was tonight's bounty. The white tomato is courtesy of our youngest and most eager gardener, Magpie.